Tag Archive | House Plants

House Plant Advice

I am a little bit shocked, I must say, by the fact that house plants are “in” again.

Of course, for me, they never went “out.” I’ve been growing house plants since I was a teenager–which means at least 4 decades. That’s okay. I’m glad that something that I like is suddenly “cool” again.

But of course now everyone is online giving “expert” advice about everything to do with house plants. One of the most amusing ones–to me anyway–is how to bring house plants–or tropicals if we’re being exotic–in for the winter.

First of all, if you’re in the northeastern united states and you haven’t done this yet, be prepared for a major mess on your hands. It’s surely not too late to try to save some of your plants–but the later you wait, the more they have trouble with the transition. I generally bring mine in around Labor Day just to avoid that.

On the other hand, you could take some of the so-called expert advice and slowly transition them inside over a period of two weeks, spraying them no less than three times with some sort of organic insecticide.

I’ve never heard of such nonsense in my life. Clearly these folks don’t realize that the insects are going to go dormant in the winter (for the most part) and won’t wake up again (if at all) until spring.

They also don’t realize that some of these insects have eggs that can live up to 2 years in the soil–so you can spray your durned fool heads off as many times as you like and you’re not going to solve that little problem!

So rather than weakening your plants by thrusting them into the dark and spraying them with insecticide (even organic insecticide!), why not just hose the plants down with a good hard spray of water to try to dislodge anything that you can and then bring the plants in?

I am also no fan of the advice I have seen that suggests that you take the entire plant and submerge it wholesale in a bucket of soapy water. Again, why? This is like killing a flea–or an imagined flea–with a sledgehammer. You are weakening the entire plant and damaging its natural leaf coatings and you don’t even know if there’s a problem. Just. Dont’. Do. It.

Once the plants are inside, do watch them carefully to assure that you didn’t bring in any insects. You have another good month or so before really cold weather sets in. If you need to take a plant or two outside to spot treat with an organic insecticide, that’s certainly do-able. But no need to treat everything willy-nilly if you see no problems.

And continue to monitor. That’s what a good house plant owner does. The sooner you catch any problems, the sooner you can solve them. Both you and your plants will be happier that way!

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Transitioning Your Outdoor Palette to Fall

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Remember this summery shot from Labor Day when I was bringing in the house plants?

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This is the same shot, taken 2 days later. Notice the difference?

Yes, some of the same plants are still there. But I have brought in others to emphasize the  autumnal colors of fall–the dark purple of the sweet potato vine, the dark stripes on my two banana plants, the fall-like colors in the crotons.

It’s a subtle shift, but it helps pick up the burgundy stems of the begonias that are nearby, and the red Japanese maple.

As we transition into autumn, how can you move some plants around to take advantage of the changing seasons?

More Unusual Snake Plants

On Friday we talked about the more common “snake plant” types, the green and the variegated.

Today I want to show you some of the more unusual varieties, starting with some that are called “bird’s nest” varieties. So far as I can determine, the botanical on these is sansevieria trifasciata hahnii.  The  variegated one is either gold or golden hahnii.

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These are low growing and slow growing. I acquired both of mine “by accident:” that is, in planter combinations with other succulents. You all know how I feel about succulents that get out of control by now–those are long gone. But these are still with me. I think the gold variety is at least 10 years old.

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Then there is the unusual upright round variety. These are botanically called “cylindrica.” These are occasionally the darlings of the designer set if they remain upright.

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In my house, however, I let them roam at will.  This is what happens. I don’t mind. I like them just the same (since I don’t have a designer showplace–more of a plant conservatory type of house!)

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And finally there is this unusual, narrow-leafed highly variegated variety called ‘Bantel’s Sensation.’ I admit, even I have had a little trouble with this one. This is my second–my first succumbed to over-watering. That’s not usually a problem in my house! So be warned–they can be a little tricky about water.

So that’s our tour through my more unusual snake plants. I often take a few of these to my house plant lectures because when you say “snake plants” everyone rolls his or her eyes and thinks “oh those boring old things.” So this is just proof that these don’t have to be boring.

And as a bonus, they’re great air cleaning plants too.

Wordless Wednesday

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You may remember my post from the Hartford Bonsai show about a month ago. At the time,  I said that I had very few bonsai anymore because they limited my ability to travel.

This is one exception.  This is Eugenia myrtifolia, or myrtle-leafed Eugenia. Occasionally in my part of the country,  we see Eugenia sold as a tropical topiary.  I guess in warmer places, it is a year-round topiary plant.

In my house, it has defied everyone’s attempt to kill it, even mine. It gets scale every winter.  Sometimes, I clean the scale off; other times I wait until spring when it goes outside.

My erratic watering means it loses a lot of leaves once it comes inside.  That’s fine.  There’s less for the scale to attack.

If it gets too dry, it loses all its leaves. There are times when I have been sure that it has died. But in the spring,  it leafs back out, and once August comes, it blooms.

I can’t tell you when it was last repotted. And you know that I don’t feed my plants.

It simply defies explanation–unlike the fiddle leaf fig you’ll see on Friday!

Do You Know the Genus Ficus?

Well, after the great contamination of 2017, about all that I am left with is house plants. It’s a good thing that I have so many!

We haven’t had rain so I can still smell fertilizer so even I haven’t wanted to walk anywhere on my property with the exception of occasional forays to see what else might have been caught by pesticide drift and might now be dying.

So I am tidying up the house plants, re-potting those that might need it before they come in in the fall and taking apart mixed planters of house plants, annuals and perennials.

In so doing, it occurred to me how many different varieties of ficus I have. I have the traditional weeping fig, I have rubber plants or trees, I have creeping or climbing figs, I have mistletoe figs. I even have a struggling fiddle leaf fig which may become compost shortly. I hate to look at struggling plants.

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Most people have trouble with this plant, the weeping fig, or ficus bejamina. These plants really aren’t terribly problematic if you understand that they are like cranky old people–they don’t like to be moved and if you move them, they are going to react by dropping a lot of leaves (I count myself in the cranky old person category–if I had leaves, I too would drop them upon being uprooted with too much change. So please don’t take offense at that last statement!)

Of course, who likes to look at a plant with few–or no leaves? What do we do when this happens? We say, “oh it’s dead,” and promptly throw it away, particularly if we have taken the plant outside in the spring and then brought it back inside in the fall. It takes a long time to re-leaf after that upheaval.

Don’t despair. Have patience, particularly  if the branches are still pliable, and the plant will leaf out again.

There’s really no way to avoid this leaf drop. If you buy one, just the mere transport from the garden center or box store atmosphere to your home will trigger the same thing. You can minimize it by buying the plant in the spring, when the plant is more likely to put out new leaves more quickly. That’s the best you can hope for.

But of course, this is your reward. Once your plant is up and growing, it will reward you with lush growth for many years. I often joke that I will need to cut a hole in my ceiling next.

If all this is too much work for you, I’ll discuss some of the easier care member of this genus on Friday.

Wordless Wednesday–Made in the Shade

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This combination of containers holds house plants, perennials, tender perennials and annuals. All of them are shade lovers and they are staged on an old set of back porch steps under a dogwood tree that throws some pretty dense shade.

Behind them, planted in the bed, you can see hosta, euonymous, ajuga and hellbores.

Who says that shade plants can’t be colorful?

Wordless Wednesday–Wabi-sabi Wednesday

I am not sure how long I have owned my little chipped bird. He was a “freebie.”  I brought it home from the garden center where I worked over a decade ago  ( with their blessing of course) because it was obviously not saleable.

I have a similar small bird on my desk, with just a chipped beak. It’s painted. I call it the blue bird of happiness.

Many folks couldn’t stand such “imperfections” in their lives or their gardens. For me, I find that small imperfections are what life is all about.